HUNTSVILLE, Texas, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- A Texas death row inmate was scheduled for execution Monday for a murder he committed when he was 17 years old.
The case of Gerald Lee Mitchell, now 33, has not attracted the attention of Napoleon Beazley and other juvenile killers whose cases have gone to the Supreme Court. Mitchell was scheduled to die at 6 p.m. CDT unless the nation's highest court halted the lethal injection.
Mitchell's lawyers are taking a different approach than other attorneys who argued a juvenile doesn't have the maturity to understand the gravity of the crime. They argue that Texas should be bound by international treaties, signed by the United States, that ban such executions.
Although Mitchell's execution has gone almost unnoticed by the news media, the head of the European Union was among several letter writers who urged Gov. Rick Perry to commute Mitchell's sentence, citing international laws against executing juvenile offenders.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the execution of juveniles doesn't violate the Constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment, but Mitchell's lawyers says the court has never ruled on the issue they placed before the court in a writ filed last week.
"What we're saying is that since the mid- to late '90s, a norm of international law that no state can ignore has developed that says you cannot execute people who were under 18 at the time of the crime," attorney Tom Moran told the Houston Chronicle.
The Mitchell appeal rides solely on the issue of his age at the time of the crime. In the Beazley case, questions were raised about the competency of his lawyer and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals postponed his execution last August until it could hear further arguments.
Fifteen of the 38 states that permit the death penalty don't allow the execution of minors. Texas and four others states have a minimum age of 17 but some states drop the age as low as 16.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Friday rejected requests for clemency and a 30-day reprieve for Mitchell.
Mitchell was convicted of capital murder in the 1985 robbery and slaying of Charles Marino, 20, in a vacant house at Houston. Marino and his brother-in-law, Kenneth Fleming, 15, were robbed and shot when they attempted to buy marijuana from Mitchell. Fleming survived.
Mitchell was also convicted of attempted capital murder in the Fleming shooting and given 60 years in prison. He is also serving 60 years in the shooting death of Hector Manguia, who was shot the same day as Marino and Fleming in another robbery.
Mitchell would be the 14th convicted killer executed this year in Texas.